P.E.I.'s first pain management clinicopened this week, saving patients from years of waiting to get treatment off-Island.

"New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, their pain clinics have waiting lists of anywhere from two to five years," said Dr. Des Colohan, who runs the clinic with the help of two support staff at the Boardwalk Medical Centre.

'People with osteoarthritis … often are in so much pain they can't sleep at night.' — Sharon Vance, Arthritis Society of Canada

Patients will need to get a referral from their doctor to go to the clinic. Colohan expects to see people suffering from a variety of complaints, including low back pain, arthritis, whiplash, headaches and fibromyalgia.

Education about pain management and a variety of treatments will be offered, including acupuncture and medication.

Patients could also be referred to other professionals, such as physiotherapists, naturopaths and massage therapists. Visits to the clinic will be covered by the province, but treatment by many of the professionals outside the clinic will not.

Sharon Vance, programs and services co-ordinator for the P.E.I. branch of the Arthritis Society of Canada, said people with arthritis have been looking forward to this kind of help close to home.

"People with osteoarthritis, when they get to the point where they're looking at joint surgery, often are in so much pain they can't sleep at night, and certainly it's also very difficult to walk," said Vance.

"During that waiting period, it's always tricky to know how much medication they should take, and I think that's where Dr. Colohan and his pain clinic is going to be a great benefit."

Colohan says the clinic will try to see all new patients in a timely manner. He expects to handle as many as 20 new referrals a week as it gets up and running.